Accordion virtuoso Verne Meisner was a link between the traditional polka of previous decades and its pop-inspired contemporary counterpart, proving a critical force behind the music's continued existence into the 21st century. Born LaVerne Donald Meisner in Milwaukee on December 4, 1938, he was raised in Whitewater, WI. After adopting the accordion at age eight, by 11 he was performing in local nightclubs, joining polka king Frank Yankovic's band a few years later.
With his own group, Verne Meisner & the Polka Boys, he scored with the 1958 single "Memories of Vienna," the first of over 60 original polkas he would compose across the decades to come, the most famous among them being "El Rio Drive." Asserting his mastery of the so-called "Cleveland style," a polka form rooted in Slovenian tradition, Meisner toured relentlessly, performing everywhere from European festivals to Las Vegas ballrooms. Over the course of his career, he cut dozens of LPs, and in 1989 was inducted into the International Polka Hall of Fame. Meisner died from complications of melanoma on June 10, 2005.